Focal Utopia Open-Back Headphones - Official Thread

Where can we find the detailed measrements of Utopia 2022, the CSD waterfall etc? so many factors are unknown, not even the impedance curve

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Here are a few. Some from headfi and some from Headphones.com





Sure, but that’s a LOT of performance/resolution you’re leaving off the table. If you’re fine with it that’s great but personally, I’d rather take a clear over a utopia when paired with a mojo (in this case). Saves you a lot more money and the performance would be more similar than significant imo. Someone starting to look into totl hps (ie. Kennyboy) vs someone that already has it I think will grant a different perspective. The clear/mojo route is a more sensible approach than the utopia/mojo route in this case, imo.

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I respectfully disagree. Your total budget matters of course, but @Kennyboy is looking at flagship headphones, so while a Clear + mojo makes more “natural sense”, I would advocate spending every penny to get a Utopia before even getting an external DAC, if budget allows.

I started with literally only a mojo when I first got my Utopia, and found it was an overwhelming upgrade over the Clear. I compared those headphones (and others) thoroughly before landing on the Utopia, and the performance of the Utopia over the Clear was obvious to me even before gaining a lot more experience in this hobby - and I didn’t need crazy source gear to hear it.

Ultimately, the transducer makes way more of a difference than any source gear you can throw at it. While I wholeheartedly agree that a mojo leaves lots of performance/resolution on the table, versus, I dunno, a TT2, I would take a Utopia + mojo over a Clear + Dave any day. Furthermore, having the Utopia at the start gives you a more complete insight into the (presumable) upgrades you make in your sources over time.

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I’m happy that it works for you. That’s why we have options.

The key factor here is personal treble sensitivity. My review (above in this thread) followed Headphones.com cross-country demo tour. I found the Utopia to be piercing with every amp I then owned. Several other people on the tour – to include some with TOTL upstream gear – couldn’t get past a brief session because of its treble. My tolerance relative to others was middle of the pack.

I’ve also listened to the Utopia at retail stores and audio shows, using both the Focal amp and a variety of TOTL upstream stuff to include the Dave. Every single system I’ve tried: → (X_X) ← Icepicks to the ears. I tried and tried again. I gave up for good after trying the Utopia 2022 on several systems at Capital Audiofest last fall.

The Clear is far more forgiving because its treble falls away into random hiss and painless grit. In my review above I detailed who might like the Utopia – noting it’s fantastic for those who are not sensitive to treble. Great for you, great for them. Terrible for the rest of us.

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100%! By no means do I think the Utopia is perfect or that it should be everyone’s top choice. It is for me (thus far), but the beauty if this hobby is that people have different preferences that can intersect with so many engineering or design choices. :slight_smile:

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I’ve never heard the OG Utopia but I don’t find the New Utopia bad in the upper FR. Interesting neither worked for you.

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I agree. Since I got Utopia I’ve been using it with a Schiit stack, which is arguably even “lower-fi” than a Chord Mojo, but the difference between Utopia and Elex (I never owned a Clear) is plainly obvious even on lower end equipment.

That said, I can plug Utopia into my iFi Go Bar and it works perfectly, but the difference in source equipment is as plainly obvious as a Times Square billboard. I can only assume the difference between Chord Mojo and Dave is similarly jaw dropping.

But in the end, I think Audiophile rule #1 still applies: Buy the best transducers (re: headphones) you can and THEN work on your source chain.

That’s audiophile rule #1 for 1 group of audiophiles.

From what I can see, there are 3 camps when it comes to priority of spending:

  1. Speakers/headphones first - buy the best headphones you can, leaving enough money for the minimum dac & amp to drive them, and upgrade those later.
  2. Source first (or garbage in/garbage out) - buy the best dac & amp that you can, leaving enough money for the minimum level of headphones, which can be upgraded later. I think this stems from the British hi-fi approach in the 70s & 80s where people were encouraged to save up for their Linn Sondeks and spend whatever pennies they had left on the rest of their chain.
  3. Balanced - try to spread your expenditure somewhat equally in terms of quality.

They’re not mutually exclusive, and in practice, you’d probably mix and match either #1 or 2 with #3, depending on your philosophy. And my interpretation of those rules is to think of it in terms of levels of quality, not expenditure. For instance, you can probably get more for your money with a dac & amp (like a Schiit stack, which is good value), which leaves more money to spend on headphones.

So I personally wouldn’t advocate spending every penny you have on the best headphones you can get, unless you achieved a certain level of dac/amp, because you run the risk of garbage in/garbage out, but that’s just my opinion.

It’s interesting, when I started typing this, I was pretty sure I was in the #2 camp (because I was brought up to follow British hi fi rules), but now I’ve thought about it, the rise in high quality budget electronics has probably nudged me towards a balanced #1 & 3.

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And 2 of them assume you intend to continue spending to get to a better point.

I find the treble on the Utopia, to be pretty offensive on a lot of source gear, and I love it on some other sources.
I guess given other peoples impressions YMMV.

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Very true. And while I’ve always considered myself to be mostly in group #3 (the “balanced” approach), with time & experience I think I’m firmly in camp #1. Buy the best headphone you can first, then work on your source & amplification. This simple and somewhat sad truth is most of us can’t go all summit-fi at one time. That’s just not the world we live in.

“Garbage in, garbage out” is almost certainly true, but it is also almost certainly true that the transducer makes 80%+ of the difference in your experience. A great headphone on a crappy dac/amp will almost definitely sound better than a garbage headphone on a summit-fi source, as evidenced by my personal anecdotal experience.

But we’re sort of off topic, aren’t we? Sorry.

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With time and experienced I’ve moved from #1 to #2 – garbage in, garbage out. DACs made me change my views. Some of them have terrible high frequency whines, while others are rough and flat. While the overall experience/timbre can be similar between an entry-level model and a nicer one, it’ll destroy nuances now and forever. My old amps got better with a new DAC. I also believe that amps improve to a point, but the practical point of diminishing returns hits well before vendors stop increasing their prices.

However, we are all talking about the margins – a basic $100 DAC and $100 amp are pretty decent versus what people used to deal with. If you get to a certain quality level I’d add #4 to @PaisleyUnderground’s framework: when everything is pretty good work to eliminate bottlenecks or spend the rest of your money on a vacation.

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Here here! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

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Or are 2 of them realistic in that you will continue spending to get to a better point despite your intentions. :smirk:

Our Take: The Focal Clear will bring you 5% short of Utopia. Meaning the Focal Clear is about 95% of its bigger brother, the Focal Utopia.”

(per headphones.com write-up on Clear OG)

This is a pretty basic question for anyone who’s had a Clear OG, and has a U2020: is the above quote a reasonably accurate statement? :grinning:

Here’s why I ask; I am (perhaps foolishly) contemplating Utopia 2020. I have a Clear OG, and ZMF Verite and Atrium. Also Rosson RAD-0.

Anyway, is Utopia 2020 a step up from all that (probably)? U2022 is out of the question $-wise.

A corollary question: is my chain up to it? Schiit Yggy OG DAC and Burson Soloist GT amp, plus Flux FA-10 Limited and Valhalla 2.

Any thoughts would be appreciated :+1:

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It’s certainly a step up from the Clear and the Verite, I can’t comment on the others.
BUT it’s incredibly source picky, and on a LOT of source gear it can come across ver sharp.

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no :slight_smile:
especially not with a good enough and fitting system for it.

in some ways yes, in some ways no. Depending on what you prioritize.

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The Utopia is a technical step up but it may not be usable if you are sensitive to treble. @andris loves his Utopia and he backs it up with a very nice chain, but not all of us have found a way to handle the treble. See my review above, where I compare the Utopia to the Clear and describe the Utopia’s treble as needles in butter. The OG Clear is nowhere near as picky about sources. I kept my Clear and passed on the Utopia. I’ve tried Utopia 2020 and 2022 in stores and at audio shows on very nice hardware but can never get past the treble.

“95% of its bigger brother”…well chimpanzees share 96% of their DNA with humans.

As always, listen for yourself. YMMV.

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I certainly think so! FWIW, I actually prefer the 2020 to the 2022, but that’s very much a personal taste thing. Anyway, asking if a Utopia is a step up from a Clear is kindof like asking whether or not your Yggy is a step up from a Bifrost 2. They’re similar, and both incredibly capable, but if you are able to appreciate that upgrade, you’ll most certainly appreciate the Utopia over the Clear.

100%. Any chain is “up to it”. With a completely straight face, I would rather have a Utopia and a Chord Mojo 2 than a Clear and DAVE. The headphone matters so much in terms of resolving and pulling everything out of what your chain has to offer, and yours is quite capable. Also, if you do decide to upgrade your chain, you’ll appreciate it so much more by having a headphone that responds to every change you make. I had only a Mojo (OG) when I first bought my Utopia and LOVED it.

Side note - I heard the Burson Soloist GT at CanJam for the first time and thought it was a fantastic amp, and paired really well with my Utopia OG!

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Haha! LMAO! :laughing:

I went back and read your review, and am playing some of your test tracks. Some of those tracks >35 are indeed painful, and unpleasant. This is incredibly helpful, thank you :+1:

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